Sixteen Candles

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
Sixteen Candles Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Racy, drunken, hilarious '80s high school comedy.
  • PG
  • 1984
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 46 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 76 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

While the movie doesn't raise profound issues, it addresses the difficulty of the teen/high school years in a way that teens can relate to. Sam's happiness is very much wrapped up in a guy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

At the film's center is a plucky teenage heroine with whom girls can identify. That said, the Chinese exchange student is reduced to a grossly offensive stereotype, and Sam's elderly grandparents don't fare much better. Jake is earnestly sweet about his interest in Sam, but he doesn't demonstrate much respect for his longtime girlfriend, Carolyn.


Mild slapstick violence. In one scene, it's implied that a teen boy had sex with a girl while she was passed-out drunk.


Teens and sex are central, with lots of talk about body parts, much of it vulgar. Kissing. A shower scene shows a girl's naked torso. A high school kid coaxes a girl into giving him her panties and shows them to bathroom full of freshmen for a dollar. Drunken sex is implied.


Some use of the words "f--k" and "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink to the point of passing out. Hung-over characters question whether they were intimate while drunk. A woman overdoes muscle-relaxant pills and gets completely loopy.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sixteen Candles is John Hughes' hilarious '80s high school comedy that has both sharply observed moments and now-dated stereotypes. Although it's rated PG (it was released before the PG-13 option existed), this is an adult comedy with teen characters. The teens drink, have sex, and talk about birth control; in one scene, it's implied that a guy had sex with a girl while she was passed-out drunk. Parents may want to exercise caution with more impressionable kids, and especially preteens or younger. But this smart exploration of adolescent life will be fun for teens and adults.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bycrashtx1 January 7, 2011

Watch it before letting kids watch

This is a classic coming of age movie, and it is very well done. But, before letting your kids watch it you need to go back and watch it with a critical eye. T... Continue reading
Adult Written bywritebrain July 13, 2019

A Modern Classic

Classic 80's coming-of-age film that addresses issues that affect teens in a comedic way; feeling overlooked, not fitting in, having a crush, etc. Plus, th... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byJohn A. May 20, 2019

Rated 12 (strong language, moderate sex references, discriminatory references, nudity).

SEX/NUDITY - Frequent moderate (and occasionally crude) sexual references are made throughout including extensive casual talk of sex between teens while using c... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byshippingshepards August 26, 2017

Example of RACIST '80s Crap

Racy and racist film, with a morally wrong portrayal of Asian people. Lumps all Asian types together along with stinging stereotypes.
Shown at a friend's p... Continue reading

What's the story?

In SIXTEEN CANDLES, Sam (Molly Ringwald) is turning 16, but her family has forgotten her birthday because of her sister's impending wedding. At school, Sam has a crush on a senior, Jake, who might not know she's alive. Fortunately for Sam, Jake is tiring of his prom-queen girlfriend. With help from a freshman super-geek (Anthony Michael Hall), Jake sets his sights on Sam, but will he find her amidst her sister's wedding chaos to fulfill her birthday wish?

Is it any good?

This '80s film is a hair-raising tour of adolescence. Sam is a girl in the throes of her first crush, and she's desperately insecure about her body. A sublimely awkward dork dogs her heels, alternately yearning for approval and crassly propositioning her. She's infatuated with a senior god and intimidated by his goddess girlfriend.

Sixteen Candles doesn't raise profound issues or craft scenes of special beauty. However, this is John Hughes at his best; he captures the nuances of adolescent slang and recreates the little humiliations that can make teen life a living hell. It's all in the details: When Sam's grandmother checks out Sam's "perky boobies" with a squeeze, you'll wonder how anyone gets through high school.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Discuss Sam's insecurity in Sixteen Candles. How could her family have eased some of the anxiety of adolescence?

  • Discuss the stereotype of Long Duk Dong. How has that stereotype changed today?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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